Over the past few months, the so-called “alt-right” has found itself in a state of disarray.
Prominent white supremacist Richard Spencer has been booted from social media and is facing a funding crisis. The Traditionalist Workers Party has fallen apart after its leader, Matthew Heimbach, was arrested for assault and, now, been sent to jail for 38 days on the separate charge of violating his parole. In Charlottesville, Virginia, the groups that helped organize last year’s violent “Unite the Right” rally are being sued. Online infighting has prompted some far-right leaders to dox each other.
But while the far-right may be losing influence, the so-called “alt-lite” isn’t. This loosely connected movement of groups and individuals doesn’t outwardly emphasize racism and bigotry in the same way the far-right does. Instead, they focus on the “dangers” posed to free speech, and how political correctness, feminism, and identity politics are destroying the West.
“The primary difference between those who consider themselves alt-right [far-right] and alt-lite is the alt-right’s willingness to use full-fledged racial and anti-Semitic terms,” Keegan Hankes, senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), told ThinkProgress. “The far-right believe that the alt-lite has undoubtedly been more successful” in marketing itself and attracting new followers.
One such alt-lite group is the Boston, Massachusetts-based chapter of “Resist Marxism” (RM). In the public eye, the group markets itself as a combination of conservative and libertarian, with a mission to “defend the Constitution against violent extremists and the left.” Its members attend free speech rallies, and the group recently hosted its own “Defend the Second Amendment” demonstration.
But internal group communications and social media information obtained by ThinkProgress show that behind this facade, Resist Marxism’s Boston chapter is steeped in same sort of racist, anti-Semitic rhetoric as groups on the far-right fringes. And that rhetoric, in turn, can easily drive new members and recruits from the libertarianism and conservatism RM professes to stand for to a more far-right ideology.
The reality of RM’s real far-right nature starts to become apparent with Kyle Chapman, otherwise known as “Based Stickman,” who founded Resist Marxism in 2017. Last March, Chapman emerged as a cult hero for the far-right when video surfaced of him breaking a stick over the head of an antifa protester at a rally in Berkeley, California.
Soon after, Chapman was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, but the far-right mobilized, quickly crowd-funding nearly $84,000 for his legal defense. Since the incident, Chapman has used his new viral fame to market himself — regularly appearing at pro-Trump rallies, selling his own merchandise, working with the far-right Proud Boys, and amassing a 40,000 member-strong Facebook following.
But Chapman, who has been photographed at several RM Boston chapter meetups and rallies, has largely managed to avoid having his criminal history prior to 2017 scrutinized. In 1993, according to court records, he was charged with felony robbery in Texas. In 2001, Chapman was charged with stealing $400 worth of property from a Macy’s in California. A 2008 indictment shows Chapman pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. For a group that markets itself as nonviolent, its founder certainly has a violent history.
The nonviolent, non-racist veneer of RM’s Boston chapter is further stripped away in an April 2018 Facebook post written by Chapman, in which he discusses the need to stand against globalism and Communism.
In the brief diatribe, Chapman discusses the need for “people of all colors to condemn the demonization/dehumanization of white folk,” before linking to another post by Brien James of The American Guard, an exceedingly violent white supremacist.
James has previously been involved with both the Ku Klux Klan and the white supremacist Hammerskin Nation. According to the SPLC, James allegedly almost beat a man to death at an Indianapolis party in 2000 for refusing to do a Hitler salute.
Years later, James bragged, “I have been tried for attempted murder and multiple batteries and hate crimes… [and] My JTTF [Joint Terrorism Task Force] file is a mile long.” Prior to being called The American Guard, James’ group was known as the Soldiers of Odin, Indiana Chapter, a reference to an anti-immigrant vigilante group that started in Finland in 2015.
The American Guard’s New Hampshire chapter also helped provide security for RM Boston’s counter-protest to the “March for Our Lives.” Its leader, John Cameron (who goes by Josh Cameron on Facebook), previously posted a video to his Facebook featuring his two infant daughters under the title “White Lives Matter.”
Resist Marxism also has ties to the far-right Patriot Front. The group recently split from its parent organization, Vanguard America, in the wake of last year’s violence in Charlottesville. Today, Patriot Front is a fascist, white-supremacist group that calls for a “new Caesar to revive the American spirit.”
Patriot Front frequently holds small-scale demonstrations calling for mass immigration expulsions and uses smoke bombs and flares to grab attention at their rallies. Their chant of “blood and soil” — which is also the name of their website domain — is a Nazi slogan that was used in Charlottesville.
Patriot Front member and former Proud Boy Christopher Raymond Hood has been repeatedly photographed with Kyle Chapman and at RM rallies — including the organization’s March for Our Lives counterprotest.
Hood has made his Facebook account private, so ThinkProgress is unable to independently verify the photos. However, in an Instagram account entitled “thefuegofascist” and a Twitter account under the handle “BDthanRed,” there is a Chris Hood who describes himself as an “MA activist.”
Hood is also quoted in a Chicago Tribune article from last year about the counter-protest to a Boston “free speech” rally in the direct aftermath of the Charlottesville rally.
“We’ve only come here to promote free speech on college campuses, free speech on social media for conservative, right-wing speakers,” he said. “We have no intention of violence.” Hood’s interaction with the Chicago Tribune is representative of the tactics of RM’s Boston chapter as a whole — outwardly marketing themselves as pro-free speech young conservatives while privately advocating racism, anti-Semitism, and fascism.
Further evidence of Resist Marxism’s real nature can be seen in their private group messages. Behind their free speech-supporting front, when they think no one is watching, the group regularly traffics in racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism — all in the same “ironic” voice seen in far-right corners of the web like Gab or 4chan’s politically incorrect board.
In one instance, group members share a screenshot that claims to list U.S. senators and representatives who hold dual citizenship with Israel. “Look at their names… you can tell they’re kikes,” the user Sulayman Dubaishi comments,
The group chat is swamped with antisemitic jokes, discussion of the war in Syria, criticisms of how Trump was being manipulated (namely by Israel) into abandoning his “America First” agenda, as well as references to RM and their various events around Boston. Group chat members speak optimistically about RM potentially becoming a “true non optics Nazi organisation.”
These messages and associations show the realty of RM’s Boston chapter. On the surface it pretends to be a pro-free speech, “alt-lite” group, but away from the public eyes its members readily revert to the far-right racism and antisemitism of Richard Spencer and his ilk.
The references to “optics” is also particularly revealing. Some on the far-right have argued that it’s a bad look to have their members engaging in real-life activism with flags, uniforms and torches seen at Charlottesville. But what the RM members seem to be saying in the above group chat is that they believe their organisation has the potential to be one which actively shows off its Nazi ideology to the public.
Resist Marxism’s dynamic of advocating free speech in public and racism in private is one that plays out nationally among alt-lite groups, according to both the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). In April, the SPLC released a report showing the kinds of paths that individuals who characterized themselves as “alt-right” typically take to get to that political stance. While “alt-lite” beliefs are not the most popular starting point (many tend to come to the “alt-right” through other legacy white nationalist movements), it was nevertheless a significant gateway, with alt-lite figure Gavin McInnes and well-known provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos figuring prominently as gatekeepers.
“There are people who went to Milo’s speeches at colleges as a recruiting tool,” Marilyn Mayo, a senior researcher at the ADL, told ThinkProgress. “There’s a real potential there to get people who have certain views. It doesn’t take much to bring them further to the right.”
“What I see happening now is the alt-right is in a little bit of a lull because of all the infighting,” Mayo continued. “If there were people who were trying to mainstream the message, it might be more expedient to go to the alt-lite.”
Neither Kyle Chapman nor Resist Marxism responded to requests for comment from ThinkProgress at the time of publication.